CHAPTER NINE PART FOUR
PAGES 5 WORDS 855
FROM CHAPTER NINE PART THREE
Maseru nodded and watched Tasca climb over the top of the outcropping. He knew this would be easier said than done. Though his mind and body craved sleep, his warrior’s mindset would fight to stay alert. Fatigued to the point of numbness, with the mental damn that kept his weariness in check, broken, Maseru tried to find a comfortable position to get a few hours rest. He knew he must sleep, must turn off the flow of questions seeking answers he couldn’t give. He looked up at the full moon surrounded by stars and smiled. Such beauty, so calm, so peaceful, so what the hell does this place feel like a shithole? Lowering his head until it touched his rucksack he gave the night sky a final look and closed his eyes.
Though asleep for over two hours, it felt like only minutes when Maseru felt the Colonel’s hand over his mouth. “Be very quiet,” Tasca whispered. We may have a problem.” He motioned Maseru to get up slowly.
Fighting through his fatigue, he rolled to his right, and with some effort pushed himself up and onto one knee. “What’s the threat, sir?”
What Tasca had wanted to avoid was no longer an option. As the rapidly unfolding situation developed he knew they must evade contact that could impact the mission’s progress. He pointed toward the west. “Engage the teledars thermals and tell me what you see, Sergeant?”
Still groggy, Maseru looked in the direction and within seconds made the outlines of six large-winged creatures fast approaching their position. “What the hell are they, sir?” he whispered in a tight, sleep-heavy voice.
“They’re waraiiths, Sergeant. The reason they’re starting to circle above us has to do with temperature. At night desert sand rapidly looses heat; however the outcropping cools at a far slower rate. They’re trying to determine if were prey or just part of this damn rock.”
In silence they lowered their teledars and watched the winged creatures above them. “I have a final count of ten, Sergeant one hundred and fifty meters above our position. Tasca wanted to make it to the mouth of the gorge undetected. He cursed himself for being so naïve, for betting against the odds they would’ve made it without conflict.
“Great, just what we need.” Maseru grabbed the handle of his Jiin sidearm. “By the sounds they’re making, it appears they can’t make up their minds, sir.”
“Affirmative, Sergeant. If we take them out we could blow our cover. Looks like we’re stuck watching their acrobatics until they decide what the hell we are. You might as well try to get some rest. No sense in both of us watching.”
“Sorry, sir, no can do. I’m too wired. Besides two sets of eyes are better than one in a situation like this. I suggest we use a stim, sir.”
The Colonel planned to use their first stims at the mouth of the gorge, but with the increasing odds that they might have to defend themselves, he agreed. “Do it, Sergeant, but only two per twenty-four hour period.” Tasca was concerned; the use of more than two within this period would have dire consequences, consequences that would leave the user with complete physical and mental exhaustion.
With laser rifles at the ready they watched the Waraiiths continue to circle above the outcropping. Tasca had considered killing two and driving off the rest, but decided against it. He didn’t want to leave any evidence no matter how insignificant alerting the Kingdom they had passed through this area.
“Sir,” Maseru whispered, “do you hear a high-pitch whine? It sounds like it’s coming from the largest one.”
Tasca nodded. “I do, Sergeant. It seems the others are making the same noise.”
Maseru gave Tasca a quizzical look. “They appear to be moving away, Colonel, but I can’t get a fix on their direction.”
“No need, Sergeant. Check your two o’clock. They appear to be heading towards an object coming in from the southwest. Bring your teledars to maximum and tell me what you see?” Tasca hoped this would be the break they needed, the good luck that so far had eluded them.
Maseru scanned the sky above their position then out towards the dark ominous outline of the distant spines. “I don’t see anything, sir. Let me make a final adj…sweet Mother of God. It can’t be, sir,” Maseru said, his focus now on a creature approaching from the southwest. “I’ll be damned. It’s a zanchet, Colonel. I can’t believe how big it is. I thought they were extinct?”
Tasca trained his teledars on the massive, slow moving creature unaware of the fast approaching danger. “You’re correct, Sergeant and until now I thought they were. Apparently enough zanchets fled into the spines and established a viable population.” He let the teledars dangle about his neck. “If one of these things can roam this far into the desert, what’s to stop more of them from doing the same? Be thankful it didn’t detect our scent. Killing it would make our encounter with the stalkers seem like a spring shower.”
© 2017, Raymond Tobaygo. All rights reserved.
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